That about sums up 2006. Wacky.
(warning–long-winded post ahead. sorry about that)

This year has had more ups and downs than an escalator. On the whole, I’d say it was an up year but with some serious, life changing downs. Here’s my version of the year in review, not necessarily in order of importance:

A huge up was also a huge down: I was laid off. At the time it seemed disastrous–my stock options! My retirement funds! (the timing couldn’t have been worse–I was a few weeks shy of vesting and lost a pretty significant chunk o’change)

Instead, the layoff entered the “best things that ever happened to me” zone. I can’t say I’m grateful to my former employers, exactly, but I probably should be. I’ve returned to the world of fast decisions, quality data research, rapid deployments, results that make a BIG difference, and I’m a lot happier. Insidious how bureaucratic nonsense oozes in and becomes your life–but now I know the signs and it ain’t gonna happen again, friends.

If getting laid off is your biggest down, well, you did ten times better than a whole buncha folks in 2006. My best friend lost her husband to a cancer that went from 0 to 60 in a shockingly short time. A favorite colleague’s family is mired in the massive legal tangles required to declare him dead without a body (he was on assignment in the far east and died in the tsunami). Several friends and family members in the military have lost lifelong friends in Iraq. Artist friends in New Orleans are still struggling to recover from Katrina and better channel rage against a government that actually made survival tougher. A couple of friends made the sad decision to end their marriage.

That stuff pretty much trivializes a career change, doesn’t it?

I realized that I’m serious about being a glass artist, even if I don’t plan to make it my day job, and I’ve been able to turn it into a business, build a development plan the same as I would for a product launch and get some impressive kudos for my work.

Mom’s come back strong from Ramsey-Hunt. In early 2006 a virus messed up the nerve centers in her brain, causing temporary facial paralysis, sight problems and profound deafness in one ear. New technology is making it possible for her to simulate hearing in her deaf ear and we’ve all learned a lot about how the brain processes information.

In some ways RH was a blessing in disguise, for it set off a round of brain scans that uncovered an aneurysm in her brain. We have a history of family members who “just dropped dead,” likely from ruptured brain aneurysms. About the only way to find aneurysms before they wreak havoc is to have the same brain scans Mom had. Too bad there wasn’t a better way for the gods to alert us to the problem but I’m thankful they did. I don’t ever want to be that scared again.

Chinni, my beloved Siamese cat, is still with us. He was operated on for cancer in early 2004 and given only a couple of months to live…but recovered completely and is working on a two year survival. Sadly, it looks as though his time is winding down and he probably won’t see 2008, but to have had this much extra time is a blessing.

My infoaddiction got worse, but the distribution methods changed. Judging from my crowded bookshelves, I’ve probably acquired more books, software, MP3s and DVDs in 2006 than in the two preceeding years. I’ve met new authors, had my mind blown by several of them, and discovered Joao Gilberto and bossa nova along with a whole bunch of new tune genres (thank you, iTunes).

But downloads became an expected delivery option in 2006–I don’t buy music CDs (why should I when I can get exactly what I want (and no more) through download?) and I’m irritated by having to wait to have software shipped to me. About the only infosource that still comes in the mail are books, and that’s only because I still prefer reading to listening and the few downloaded e-books I’ve tried are a pain to print. Much as I adore my computers, they’re still a little unwieldy for reading in bed.

After a long separation, Macs and Windows are once again cohabitating in my office. (Actually they’re cohabitating in one computer–FreddieMac). I’m amazed at how much the Mac OS has changed in five years, and I’m beginning to segment tasks best done in Windows or Mac, moving from keyboard to keyboard with ease. Once Ezekiel the Linux machine moves down from the upstairs office, all three beasts will be side-by-side, and it’ll be fun to see how my workflows change.

Five years ago it took much greater knowledge (and patience) to move between OSes. The rise of Web services greased that path, which I’m sure is great for Apple and not so great for Microsoft…unless Microsoft does exactly what it is doing vis a vis “Live.” Fascinating project, fabulous opportunities.

My sister’s family broke ground on their dream house and it’s buzzing right along. I’m impressed and dismayed by the amount of work it’s taking (they’re mostly building it themselves) but part of me wants to do the same thing. Maybe some day.

My writing got better. Writing’s like any other activity–the more you practice, the better you get. Unfortunately, unless you’re a best-selling author, writing and corporate advancement don’t mix, so my writing muscles were beginning to atrophy.

Blogging has changed that. I blog regularly, here and elsewhere, pretty much writing whatever comes up. It may not be great (and to be honest I really don’t care whether anyone else reads it) but it’s keeping those muscles lubed and my other writing has become far easier (and better). Blogging’s not the same as a private diary–I’m structuring stories because they’re being published…and that makes all the difference. When I teach writing now, I’m advising people to start a blog–it’s one of the best teaching aids I’ve found.

I’ve reunited with a lot of old friends. Blogging’s having an interesting effect on my social life–people I haven’t encountered in years are suddenly popping up to say “I saw your blog; let’s get together.” They don’t comment directly, but at least once a week someone e-mails…it’s a lot of fun.

Everything broke. Well, not everything, but the month of December, especially, was a gadget replacement jamboree. I lost my pocket camera, my furnace, my phones, my Taurus ring saw, my favorite lamp, my favorite running pliers and glass cutters, my DVD player and other assorted audio-visual equipment, the refrigerator, the stove, a gas fireplace, my satellite dish and four remotes, the usual myriad cell phone headsets and miscellaneous computer equipment…and that’s just part of the list.

Boy, the sunspots must be working overtime. I’m learning not to make friends with anything with a power switch since chances are we won’t be friends for long.

So that’s pretty much the year. Reading this over, I see I haven’t really changed much in 2006; art, family, career, gadgets, friends…what’s been most important for the last two decades stayed put.

Wacky new year.